Politics & Policy

Stephen Fincher’s Ex-Im Flip-Flop

(Getty Images)
Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher shows how Congress corrupts.

When Representative Stephen Fincher ran for office in 2010, he promised to support a limited government based on the original intent of the Founding Fathers. He wrote on his campaign website that one of the first things he did when deciding whether or not to run was read the Constitution. He wrote, quite eloquently in fact, that “the purpose of the Constitution is to limit government — to chain it down and protect the people and not the other way around. Washington has it backwards.”

“I will fight to restore constitutional government,” he vowed, “a limited federal government, to return power and money to state governments, and remember the constitutional republic left to us by our Founders.”

He promised, among other things, “to get the government out of the financial-services industry and return control of the financial markets to free enterprise.” That’s why the Club for Growth PAC, of which I am the president, was so proud to endorse his candidacy in 2010, and that’s why, in 2014, it’s so disappointing to see the congressman “go Washington” on the great debate over the taxpayer-backed Export-Import Bank.

The Export-Import Bank is just a small slice of the federal government that many Tennesseans may not know about, but the fight over whether to reauthorize it this fall  has big implications.

Essentially, the bank provides subsidies, through loans and loan guarantees, for companies to export their products to foreign nations. The vast majority of these authorizations go to large corporations (some small businesses benefit too, but the vast majority of taxpayer exposure goes to  massive companies such as Boeing, General Electric, and Caterpillar). The loans are backed by the federal government — otherwise known as you, the taxpayer.

The bank is a classic example of Washington picking winners and losers in the free market. Who are the losers in the deal? Delta Airlines is harmed, for instance, because Air India is able to get cheap financing through the Export-Import Bank to buy Boeing airplanes, and thus undercut Delta on prices. Domestic mining companies are undercut by foreign mining firms that purchase Caterpillar equipment financed by the bank at discount rates.

Worse, the bank is rife with corruption. A former congressman is in jail today because he solicited bribes on behalf of Ex-Im, and there are currently 40 investigations of alleged fraud at the bank. That’s a track record that would rival the IRS’s!

But really, the intricacies of this policy debate are beside the point. The point is: Representative Fincher ran on a promise to restore a constitutionally limited government to Washington, and now he’s leading the charge to reauthorize the bank.

“Please, let’s don’t overreact. Let’s try to fix this investment. Let’s make it better. Let’s get back to the original mission of the [Export-Import] Bank and don’t hurt jobs in our districts,” he said at a recent congressional hearing.

The congressman now says nothing about the Constitution. Nothing about getting government out of the way. Instead, he sounds a little bit like the Democrats and President Obama, who believe that government creates jobs. I like Candidate Stephen Fincher better — he suggested that “tax cuts and free markets” create jobs, not more government or cronyism.

What’s most frustrating is that Representative Fincher is flip-flopping on this issue. In 2012, when the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank last came up (it expires again this September), he had the courage to oppose it. 

There are too many members of Congress like Stephen Fincher, who run promising to promote economic freedom and limited government, but then find themselves quickly allying with the big-government crowd once they’re in office. We need more people who are willing to stand on principle to do what’s right for America’s future, not another Republican willing to be complicit with the Democrats and President Obama as our country marches past $17 trillion in debt.

It’s not too late for Representative Fincher to oppose the bank and follow the wise words that Candidate Fincher wrote in 2010. In fact, all Congress needs to do to achieve this one, small victory for limited government is to sit on its hands and allow the authorization for the bank to expire at the end of September. Congressman Fincher could be a part of that fight.

The people of Tennessee’s eighth congressional district might like to have a congressman who matches his actions to his rhetoric.

— Chris Chocola, a former congressman from Indiana, is the president of the Club for Growth.


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